The author of the highly acclaimed The Yacoubian Building returns with a story of love, sex, friendship, hatred, and ambition set in Chicago, with a cast of American and Arab characters achingly human in their desires and needs.
Egyptian and American lives collide on a college campus in post-9/11 Chicago, and crises of identity abound in this extraordinary and eagerly anticipated new novel from Alaa Al Aswany. Among the players are a sixties-style anti-establishment professor whose relationship with a younger African-American woman becomes a moving target for intolerance; a veiled PhD candidate whose belief in the principles of her traditional upbringing is shaken by her exposure to American society; an emigre whose fervent desire to embrace his American identity is tested when he is faced with the issue of his daughter's "honor"; an Egyptian informant who spouts religious doctrines while hankering after money and power; and a dissident student poet who comes to America to finance his literary aspirations but whose experience in Chicago turns out to be more than he bargained for.
Populated by a cast of intriguing, true-to-life characters, Chicago offers an illuminating portrait of America--a complex, often contradictory land in which triumph and failure, opportunity and oppression, licentiousness and tender love, small dramas and big dreams, coexist. Beautifully rendered, Chicago is a powerfully engrossing novel of culture and individuality from one of the most original voices in contemporary world literature.
Egyptian author al Aswany (The Yacoubian Building) weaves a vivid tapestry of clashing cultures in post-9/11 Chicago. Dr. Ra'fat Thabit, an Egyptian-American professor at the University of Illinois Medical School, has burrowed deep into American culture, but finds his identity threatened after his rebellious daughter falls under the sway of a shady boyfriend. Ra'fat's colleague, Dr. Muhammad Shamay, retreats from his American wife into extended reveries of his life in Cairo in the 1970s when he was young and in love with a revolutionary. His histology student, Nagi Abd al-Samad, really wants to be a poet. Nagi begins a relationship with an American girl named Wendy (who just so happens to be Jewish). Meanwhile, Shymaa Muhammadi, a medical student who wears a veil, finds her traditional values under siege when Tariq Haseeb, another Egyptian med student, begins seducing her with dogged persistence. The characters are beautifully realized--Ra'fat's family trouble is especially well done--and though their cumulative effect is muted, each of the story lines is individually compelling. (Oct.)
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October 06, 2008
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